I recently joined a social network called mepeace.org. This network, built on my favorite NING platform, suggests a platform for peace making in the Middle East. Let’s start by communicating, says Eyal Raviv, a relatively new immigrant from New-York and a former Yeshiva student who established this network about a year ago. The network now has 843 registered members to date and a nice regular rate of page hits a day.
Communicating is indeed one of the key factors of peace making. Without it there is no way for one party to understand the hopes, fears and constraints of the other side, both of which form the agreement environment.
Peace is a good, solid agenda. Not to mention sexy. In fact, world peace, and the Middle-East peace specifically, are so attractive that there are about a million web sites who offer various platforms for connecting Israelis, Palestinians and others for an open dialogue of some sort or method, aimed at reaching understanding or cooperation, which will lead to a peace agreement. Some of the sites offer online conversations while others only raise money and awareness online, but manage the dialogues in conferences, lunches and events, preferably further away from Sderot or Gaza.
Here are some examples randomly picked from the Google search results:
“The Middle East Peace Dialogue Network Inc” is a company founded by Richard C. Goodwin who was born in Philadelphia and lives in Snowmass Village, Colorado. His business is building, but he founded the organization, that according to their site supports over 65 Israeli and Palestinian groups to promote peace.
“Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” is another Pennsylvania based organization with an interesting board of directors.
The Carter Center offers “conflict resolution” programs all over the world, including the Middle East. “One Voice” is an organization offering a little more content online. You can read about it here . Unlike other organizations they state: we are not a dialogue group. We are action oriented.
“Search For Common Grounds” was established in 1982 and aims at various conflicts resolution around the world. They have an office in Jerusalem. They have been active in the area from 1991 and increased their actions since 2000, especially through development of independent media solutions. Read here.
Facebook offers hundreds of groups dedicated to peace making in the Middle East. Some link to other sites like the pro-pro-pro group, with its 1739 members linking to http://www.btvshalom.org/, an organization with chapters in America, but not in the Middle East. Some are simpler groups like “This group supports peace between Israel and Palestine” with its discussion board open for its 850 members. There are groups who have thousands, tens of thousands and even more than 177 thousand members, all using the peace as an anchor.
Other groups who use peace as their key words are the hate groups. When you search Facebook for peace related groups you encounter many of those. No dialogue invitation there. A one sided collection of hate declarations and calls for violence, killing and destruction – and that’s it. The amount of hate promoted on Facebook questions this specific medium as a peace promoting environment.
Back to Mepeace. On their homepage you can find a calendar of peace related events in Israel, Palestine and the US. Following is the list of forum discussions started by members, called here “peacemakers”, who try to keep an optimistic air, in spite of difficult events that take place daily.
Of the recent forum discussions I especially like that little bit naïve, but so straight forward discussion started by Marwa Yassine. She is a 22 year old student from Canada, who was born in Iraq, raised in Lebanon, never was in Israel or Palestine, and yet has a complete Palestinian identity based on the fact that her grandparents used to live in Haifa. This open communications, revealing thoughts and feelings of “the other side” does reach. I am not a political person. Can’t define a specific line of views. But communicating with Marwa and her friends makes a point: It’s time the Israeli and Jewish recognize the “Palestinian Zionism”. It’s exactly the same emotion that brought my ancestors from Poland, Russia and Germany to Israel at the beginning of the 20th century, after 20 centuries of exile. It doesn’t go away.
The big question is, can web 2.0 really contribute to advance a solution? Or are we aiming at web 21?